Catherine A. Hogan, MSW, LCSW
Founder, Executive Director
Catherine is a certified professional educator in school social work and licensed clinical social worker. Catherine received her BA in clinical psychology from Smith College and her MSW in clinical social work from the Smith School for Social Work and has a background as a clinical supervisor at the Yale Child Study Center, school social worker for children with severe disabilities to those with the brightest of intellectual gifts. Catherine has also been an assistant school administrator, and educational consultant. Catherine was president of the Connecticut Association of School Social Workers and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Bullying. Catherine is currently a member of the National Association of Social Workers Ethics committee. She was a member of the Smith College’s 504 committee and assisted with the integration of students with visible and invisible disabilities. Catherine’s diverse experiences have given her a unique perspective on how to support the work of dedicated educators, mental health providers, and parents, all working from different perspectives of the same goal—the child’s best interests.
Janet Tanner, BA
Community Relations Coordinator
Janet is a graduate from St. Joseph’s College with a degree in business economics. She has been a realtor for 21 years and has been with RE/MAX Premier since 2001. Janet volunteers with the Social Communication Foundation because her son Rick, now a software developer, was diagnosed at age 14 with Executive Function deficits and ADD. He also suffered from communication challenges and eventually withdrew from others. There was very little assistance for Rick in high school or college because he was doing well academically. Janet struggled throughout Rick’s school career to get social skill services and accommodation he needed from the district. Janet believes that the Social Communication programs are desperately needed to help the growing number of young people who face challenges similar to her son.
John J. Smith, Ph.D
President of the Board & Education Director
“Jay” brings us forty years of educational experience, including 30 years as a high school principal in districts including New Canaan, West Hartford, East Haven, and Chappaqua, NY. Since “retirement” in 2006, he has served interim principalships in Southbury/Middlebury CT; Rye, NY; and three in Newtown at the High School, Intermediate School, and Middle School. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut, an M.A.T. from Brown, and a B.A. from The University of Notre Dame. He heads Jay Smith & Associates LLC, education consultants. Throughout his career Jay has seen students struggle with social communication challenges. He believes our Foundation’s innovative approach is a valuable addition to help young people become all that they can be.
Tom McGovern, BA
Educational Technology Coordinator
Tom is a certified technology education teacher and works for Brevard County in Palm Bay, Florida. Tom has spent his career helping children and young adults with and without special needs to learn and better influence their social and physical environment. He was an educational technology director and teacher at Saint Gabriel School for 11 years working with Dr. Gail Kingston. He also has helped Casey Family Services improve its foster resource management database for foster children and their families and was a research fellow at the University of Illinois, helping develop databases to monitor state spending patterns for individuals with developmental disabilities. Tom has worked as a team leader for the state of Oklahoma, coordinating treatment teams helping young adults with severe developmental disabilities successfully transition to independent community living.
Parent Services Coordinator
Karen is a 2014 Partner in Policymaking program graduate and dedicated to advocating for people with disabilities, including at a legislative level. She is also the mother of three young adults and has three decades of communications and project management experience in the healthcare industry. Karen’s journey began 10 years ago when her youngest was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and Generalized Anxiety. In the years that followed Karen learned the rules of special education and studied disability rights while advocating for her son. Karen saw first hand the negative impacts compromised communication skills had on her son’s well being — social isolation and depression.The work of the Social Communication Foundation grows increasingly more urgent as the numbers of young people in their teens and twenties with communication and executive function based disabilities swells, and they transition into the community.
(Lynn) Grant Dempsey MSW LCSW
Lynn has had rich and rewarding career for over 40 years in the field of social work. Her passion has been to help people access the social, emotional and behavioral skills they need to lead independent and fulfilling lives. She has had the pleasure of working with high school age students for over 29 years and values the critical importance of this formative transition time in a person’s life. As coordinator and instructor for various peer based programs including peer mediation, Lynn has had firsthand experience with the power of peer relationships and youth leadership development. Lynn is a graduate of Emmanuel College and University of Connecticut School for Social Work. Lynn is married and has two adult children. She retired from full time employment in 2013.
Jodie is a parent advocate with passion and hope to see all twice exceptional children be given voice, skill, confidence, and opportunities to meet their fullest potential. Jodie has a wide range of experience in organization, clerical, secretarial, data, and communication skills and will assist in the coordination and implementation needs for the Cross-Peer Communication Training Group. Jodie is the mother of 3 boys, tax collector for the borough of Newtown, and an avid gardener and food grower.
Joanne earned two degrees at Temple University, a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Arts in Educational Media. She was certified to teach Kindergarten through 8th grade and taught in the Philadelphia Public School System for 8 years before joining IBM as a Systems Engineer. Joanne retired from IBM after 30 years of service in many roles including technical instructor, professional development manager and business operations manager. She worked as a program director for an information technology nonprofit in Bridgeport, CT. Joanne will assist our staff in documenting consistent, repeatable processes that support high quality delivery of our cross-peer Social Communications Training Groups offering. She will work to minimize any operational impediments that may develop.
Genna Lewis, DDS Self-Advocate Coordinator
DDS Self-Advocacy Coordinator, Board Member
Genna is the New Haven Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Self-Advocate Coordinator. She has been working at DDS since 2006. Genna leads meetings in the south region of CT for self-advocacy and completes monthly reports on activities in the local area she serves. Genna is a Connecticut resident and has graduated from Nonnewaug High School. After high school, Genna attended New York Institute of Technology, Vocational Independence Program and then Vista Vocational and Life Skill Center. Genna made many improvements to VISTA while a mentor on the Student Advisory Committee. She is a role model to those with diagnosed disabilities. Genna is socially skilled and is thrilled to give her insight to the Social Communication Foundation.
Kathleen K. Wielk, B.A.
Vice President for Advancement
Notre Dame High School (West Haven, CT)
A 1980 graduate of Fairfield University with a B.A. in English/Education, Kathy taught English and Religion at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield, CT, for eight years. In 1988, Kathy moved to a career in Advancement, first at Albertus Magnus College as Director of Alumni Affairs and then at Quinnipiac University as Director of the Annual Fund.In 1994, Kathy was hired as the Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Notre Dame High School in West Haven, CT, an all boy’s college preparatory school sponsored by the Brothers of Holy Cross. Kathy currently serves as Vice President for Advancement and oversees development, alumni relations, communications, and admissions for the school.
Susan E. Eaccarino, LMSW
Data Analysis Assistant
Susan is a master’s level social worker interested in brain based disorders. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from Boston University, where she specialized in group work and trauma therapy. As a clinician, she has worked in the fields of brain injury, homelessness, and veteran services; she is currently employed as a school social worker for Stone Academy and adjunct faculty at Goodwin College. Before her life as a social worker Susan worked in theatre and theatre education. Susan will collect, collate, and participate in team analysis of individual and group progress during program sessions.
Karen is an Executive Director at Gilbert Tweed International, an executive recruiting firm. She is a strong advocate for her son, Alex, who has high functioning autism. Her goal is to see that all families and individuals with autism and communication challenges have access to programs that can help them reach their potential. She understands how important The Social Communication Foundation is for these children – providing an opportunity for interaction with peers who care, want to help, and want to learn from those who face these challenges.
Stephen Mark Shore, Ph.D
Research to Practice Evaluator
Steven is a professor of special education and autism at Adelphi University. Stephen is an author and international speaker on autism. Stephen travels internationally supporting programs around the world that are developing services for children with autism. President emeritus of the Asperger’s Association of New England and former board member of the Autism Society, Dr. Shore serves on the advisory board for Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association, United States Autism and Asperger Alliance, and other autism related organizations. Dr. Shore’s research focuses on comparing different approaches for persons with autism for the purpose of matching practice to individuals needs. Stephen will collaborate with us to capture the essence of what is working in our programs so that those variables can be replicated.
Diversity Recruitment and Retention Programs Manager
Robert was the Human Resource Force Management NCO for the Massachusetts Headquarters of the Air National Guard. Robert worked on behalf of the Adjutant General with recruiting, retention, social action, and public affairs functions by coordinating and implementing programs needed to assist the state in meeting Air National Guard’s human resource goals. His military career extended over thirty six years. Robert currently volunteers for Toys for Tots, The Springfield MA Exchange Club, and Friends of Veterans.
A teacher for almost forty years in traditional classrooms and elsewhere, Virginia received her MA from Teachers College, Columbia and her MAT from Yale. Having worked with children in grades 4-12 and their parents, in urban, suburban and rural schools, both public and private, in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Colorado, she recognizes the need for the Social Communication Foundation. She believes that the forum the Foundation provides-bringing together young people with and without communication challenges-is an excellent way to improve the ability of both groups to understand, live, and work with each other. Currently she volunteers as a “teacher coach” at St. Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven.
John Elder Robison
Autism Research Advisor
John is an Aspergian expert in the field of autism and communication diversity. When Aspergers had not yet been identified, John was labeled and a problem child. He dropped out of high school in 10th grade. His unidentified Asperger’s gave him rare insights in the field of electronics and he designed special effects guitars for the KISS band in the 1970s. John had several good corporate jobs but could not fit in. He realized he had no problem with machines so he started his own automotive repair business. John was fortunate to be identified with Asperger’s later in life and this information transformed his life. John has served on many prestigious boards. In 2012, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius named him to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee which develops – among other things – the Strategic Plan for autism research that guides NIH, CDC, and many private researchers. John will provide feedback to our management team on our efforts to measure the value of our work, both for socially challenged people and their peers who are socially integrated.
Ronald A Grant, MD, DMin, NCPsyA, STM
Group Placement Advisor
Dr. Grant received his medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Grant specializes in treating patients in the context of psychiatry, pastoral counseling, and outpatient counseling. Licensed to practice in Connecticut and New York, Dr. Grant is board certified in medical psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction. Dr. Grant has experience in autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities. Dr Grant is currently the President of the C G Jung Institute in New York.
Health and Wellness Advisor
Paula is an Associate Clinical Professor, former Director of Outpatient Services at the Yale Child Study Center and the Director of Social Work Training. Professor Armbruster is Chairperson of the Quality Assurance Sub-Committee of the Managed Care/Medicaid Oversight Council for the Connecticut State Legislature. She is also the representative for the National Association of Social Workers to the Surgeon General’s Conference on Child Mental Health. She is past President of the National Consortium of Children’s Mental Health Services. Paula brings a rich background in creative ways to help children succeed by tapping educational and health care systems serving children.
Catherine Sharafanowich, R.Ph.D
Secretary Treasurer of the Board
Catherine is the Director of Pharmacy at the Cornell-Scott Hill Health Corporation, New Haven. Catherine is the mother of a son with autism and she has been a leading advocate for the benefits and knowledge that the Social Communication Foundation can bring to all youth. Catherine’s background in making health care affordable to the underserved will be a great contribution to our mission. Catherine opened the first retail community health center 340B Pharmacy in CT. Catherine has remarkable entrepreneurial and management skills in the field of health care, supporting the organization’s efforts to make our programs available to families who generally have higher than average medical considerations for children special health care needs.
Brian is a licensed social worker. He has been the Spanish translator for the Social Communication Foundation and a facilitator for the Foundation’s Beyond Differences program. During the academic year 2012-2013, Brian was the co-facilitator for our partnership program with Granville Academy. Brian works for the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch and holds experience providing counseling services for both children and adults. Brian is excited by the work of the Social Communication Foundation and has seen firsthand the benefits from the program.
Brendan Wendt, BS
Participant Outreach Specialist
Brendan graduated from Southern Connecticut State University. He is interested in history and linguistics. Brendan has an autism spectrum disorder and has been a co-leader with the Social Communication Foundation since 2010.
Participant Outreach Specialist
Sean participated, while a student of Fairfield Preparatory School in our first service group in Westport CT in 2010. Sean was at that time. Sean continued his efforts to support the mission of the Social Communication Foundation while attending Holy Cross College. Sean has served as a board member and demonstrates continued willingness to support our mission as he moves towards his career path.
Mary Ann Austin, MSW, LCSW
Mary Ann has extensive experience in working with people who have special needs. She is the mother of a daughter, Katy, who is 39 years old and has autism and other developmental disability. She has been an active leader in creating a meaningful self-determined program for Katy that has incorporated social, intellectual, sensory, spiritual, and physical stimulation to provide balance and flexibility throughout her life.
Mary Ann was the Social Work Coordinator for the Medical Home Initiative for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs in Southwest Connecticut, under the Dept. of Public Health. In this position, Mary Ann created and supported pediatric medical practices for children with physical, behavioral or intellectual special needs and their families.
Mary Ann is currently working to get permission to form a local L’Arche Community in Connecticut. L’Arche forms inclusive communities of faith and friendship where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. There are over 170 L’Arche communities in the world and 12 in the United States.
Mary Ann is employed as the Social Service Manager and Senior Behavioral Health Clinician at Norwalk Community Health Center in Norwalk, CT. She is responsible for care management and clinical counseling for patients throughout the lifespan and for interdisciplinary teaming between medical and behavioral health clinicians in integrating holistic treatment of body, mind, and spirit.